Citing multiple sources, GamesRadar reports that the project was known as Call of Duty: Roman Wars and was in development at Vicarious Visions late in the previous decade. Vicarious Visions, which is located near Albany, New York, is an Activision-owned studio best known for its work on the Skylanders and Guitar Hero franchises.
Roman Wars would reportedly have focused on Julius Caesar’s 10th legion, a cavalry unit that was Caesar’s most trusted legion. The unit was featured heavily in Commentarii de Bello Gallico (Commentary on the Gallic War), Caesar’s firsthand account of the wars he fought against various Gallic tribes from 58-50 B.C., and Roman Wars’ story was reportedly based on that work.
A GamesRadar source named only as "Polemus" described a prototype for the pitch, a single level based on 52 B.C.’s Battle of Alesia. The goal was to take out archers, and the player could have accomplished that objective by using catapults, siege towers or "war elephants" — which the player could ride as they trampled enemies on the battlefield.
That part of the demo was played from the third-person perspective, but a smaller portion of the prototype was a first-person Gladiator-esque battle in Rome’s Colosseum. Vicarious Visions was planning a story for Roman Wars that would have spanned multiple characters, just like Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare and Call of Duty: World at War before it.
"You were going to play a lead centurion, you were going to play a grunt and you were going to play all the way up to Julius Caesar himself," Polemus told GamesRadar.
We’ve reached out to Activision for comment, and will update this article with any information we receive. For more on Roman Wars, including footage of the prototype, you can check out the video above and see the full story at GamesRadar. You can also read our report on Call of Duty: Devil’s Brigade, another third-person Call of Duty title that never saw the light of day.
Update: In case you caught a Ubisoft logo in the video above, there's an explanation for that — GamesRadar later updated its story to note that the footage is from a prototype of the game that, according to Polemus, was "later repurposed and pitched to Ubisoft, as just Roman Wars," after members of the development team left Activision.
Update 2 (July 7): An Activision representative sent the following statement to Polygon about Roman Wars: "The game concept was proposed by a former employee while working at the studio, but was not seriously considered nor requested to move to prototype." We've edited the article to reflect this.